Is your pet on the portly side?
With Christmas over, you might be thinking about setting a New Year’s resolution. It’s also a great time for your pet to join in too!
Research from the 2019 PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report found that 46 percent of dogs and 34 per cent of cats seen by veterinary professionals are overweight or obese. So January is a good time to check your pet’s body shape and take action if necessary.
PDSA Vet Nurse Joanne Wright said: “Excess weight can lead to serious health problems including arthritis, joint strain, back problems and breathing problems, particularly for flat-faced breeds. Too many calories and not enough exercise are the key factors but, with some simple changes, owners can control their pet’s weight.”
PDSA’s website www.pdsa.org.uk/healthypets has a handy guide for owners to check their pet’s body shape, including helpful pictures on how to check dogs, cats and rabbits.
Joanne said: “You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs and spine by gently running your hands down the top and the side of their body. If you have to press down to feel them, they’re probably overweight. A healthy body shape has an ‘hourglass figure’ visible from above, as your pet should tuck in at the waist. It can be trickier to see the hourglass shape in very fluffy dogs, so you’ll need to smooth down their fur to see if they have this shape underneath.”
Owners who are unsure about their pet’s body shape can get further advice from their vet or vet nurse. The assessment is called Body Condition Scoring and is really useful to help you figure out if your pet is the right weight.
Joanne added: “If you think your pet’s overweight, take them for a check-up before starting them on a diet. Your vet can check for any underlying health issues that could be causing weight gain. Losing weight too quickly can make pets ill, especially for cats and rabbits, and simply reducing portion size can lead to pets not getting enough nutrients to stay healthy. Your vet or vet nurse can work out the weight your pet should be. They’ll review your pet’s current diet and tailor a plan for safe weekly weight-loss, which will include a manageable exercise plan too.”
Joanne’s top tips to help your pets beat the bulge:
- Weigh out food – with scales! Each day weigh out the daily allowance of food, ffollowing the feeding guidelines on the packaging, or your vet’s advice.
- If your pet’s used to treats, take a small handful of their kibble and put it to one side to use these instead of treats.
- Watch out for hidden calories – chews sold to prevent dental disease can significantly increase your pet’s calorie intake. Brushing teeth twice a day is much more effective and has significantly less calories!
- Increase exercise – it’s important to ensure pets stay active – whatever the weather. Dogs need at least one walk a day. Cats enjoy playing hunting-style games using fishing rod-type toys. If your pet’s older or struggling with exercise ask your vet for advice.
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk